The state's high-speed rail authority has offered an alternative route around Hanford aiming to address criticism of its plan by Kings County residents.
But some of those same critics said the new plan -- highlighted by adding a Hanford bypass west of the city -- does little to ease their concerns over lost farmland, homes and businesses.
Aaron Fukuda, a Hanford resident whose rural neighborhood east of the city would be displaced by the original east-Hanford bypass, said the western option will do little to appease opposition in Kings County.
"It makes me even more angry that they did that," said Fukuda, who is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority and other state officials over the train plans. "The way they included that western bypass, they tried to blame the landowners on the east side."
"... What we were requesting is an alignment that is different, like along Interstate 5 or Highway 99, something that's on an existing transportation corridor."
The new report says that about 450 homes and about 1,430 residents would likely be displaced by the primary route option between Fresno and Bakersfield. Most of those homes are in Bakersfield.
Different route options, such as elevated tracks in Corcoran or bypasses around Corcoran, Wasco and Shafter, would reduce the number of families that would have to move, depending on which alternative is chosen.
The same 114-mile stretch also could force the relocation of nearly 400 nonfarm businesses along the route that employ about 2,500 workers. More than 320 of the affected businesses are in the Kern County cities of Bakersfield, Wasco and Shafter.
To ease the effects on farms, homes and businesses, the authority expects to compensate owners for their property as well as for relocation costs.
For farms, the report says that compensation would not only include the land value, but also lost production of crops including long-term assets such as fruit or nut orchards or vineyards -- crops where the trees and vines would take time to mature before they become productive on relocated farms.
The revised draft environmental report essentially presses the reset button on the approval process for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield stretch nearly a year after the first one was panned.
The new version, posted with little fanfare by the rail authority and the Federal Railroad Administration on their websites Monday afternoon, will be open for 60 days of comment, including public hearings in Fresno, Hanford and Bakersfield.
"We know we haven't addressed all issues to everyone's satisfaction," said Jeff Morales, the authority's CEO. "But this next part of the process is designed to get the public's input to continue to improve this document going forward."
Between downtown Fresno and downtown Bakersfield, the proposed route generally follows the Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight rail line. But the line veers from the freight tracks to bypass the city of Hanford.
The biggest differences between the original report in August and the one released Monday include a bypass route around Hanford that runs west of the city, as an alternative to the original route that skirts the city to the east; a more elaborate examination of the potential effects of the project on agriculture, businesses and communities; and evaluating a second route for the high-speed trains into downtown Bakersfield.
Kings County farmers have been among the most vocal opponents of the high-speed train project, fearing that tracks would disrupt thousands of acres of farmland and force the relocation or closure of dairies, a major rendering plant and other facilities.
They also say road closures would force farmers whose property is divided by the tracks to drive tractors, trucks and other equipment miles out of their way daily to get from one side of their farms to the other.
Frank Oliveira said the east-Hanford bypass would run through five different farms run by his family in the Hanford area, while none of his property would be touched by the western bypass.
Still, he said, neither route is good for Kings County's agriculture because each slices across farmland in curving arcs or diagonals, splitting parcels and creating irregularly shaped fields.
Consultants for the authority estimate the tracks and related structures such as electrical stations and road overpasses would take 2,500 to 3,100 acres of farmland out of production in Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties. That amounts to about 0.05% of the productive farmland in those counties.
The report acknowledges the potential effects of the train system on agriculture's economic contribution to the Valley. But, it says, those effects are small compared to the total agricultural value of the region.
The report pegs the estimated reduction in agriculture production at about $27.5 million a year in the four-county region. But, it adds, that figure represents less than two-tenths of a percent of the area's $16 billion annual farm production.
Despite all that, Oliveira and Fukuda both said the rail authority has not been dealing fairly with Kings County. The county's Board of Supervisors is a co-plaintiff in Fukuda's lawsuit against the agency.
In several meetings with county leaders this year, authority board chairman Dan Richard said he hoped the agency and Kings County could work through their differences before the revised EIR was published. The county had presented a list of 60 questions it wanted answered by the authority, and the two sides were continuing to work through the list.
"Dan Richard, the chairman, made commitments to the county supervisors and the public that certain things would be achieved before they re-released the EIR," Oliveira said Monday. "Today we're dumbfounded that this report is out because the authority is still not working in good faith."
Morales, however, said the EIR is part of "an open and transparent process."
"The revised environmental document ... responds to many of the public's concerns and feedback which were drawn from communities throughout the Central Valley."
For more info
Public hearings to receive testimony about the high-speed rail environmental impact report will be:
- Aug. 27: 3 to 8 p.m., Beale Memorial Library, 701 Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield.
- Aug. 18: 3 to 8 p.m., Hanford Fraternal Hall, 1015 N. 10th Ave., Hanford.
- Aug. 29: 3 to 8 p.m. at the Fresno Convention Center Exhibit Hall, 848 M St., Fresno.
Informational workshops on the Fresno-Bakersfield draft EIR will be:
- Aug. 13, 4 to 7 p.m., Rosedale Middle School Multipurpose Room, 12463 Rosedale Highway, Bakersfield.
- Aug. 14, 4 to 7 p.m., Elks Lodge, 16694 Wasco Ave., Wasco.
- August 15, 4 to 7 p.m., Veterans Memorial Hall, 1000 Van Dorsten Ave., Corcoran.
- Aug. 16, 4 to 7 p.m., The Grand 1401 Ballroom, 1401 Fulton St., Fresno.
Printed or electronic copies of the report are available for viewing at the following locations:
- Fresno County Public Library, Central Branch, 2420 Mariposa Street, Fresno.
- Fresno County Public Library, Cedar-Clinton Branch, 4150 E. Clinton Street, Fresno.
- Fresno County Public Library, Clovis Regional Library, 1155 Fifth Street, Clovis.
- Fresno County Public Library, Fig-Garden Branch, 3071 W. Bullard Avenue, Fresno.
- Fresno County Public Library, Mosqueda Community Center, 4670 E. Butler Avenue, Fresno.
- Pinedale Community Center, 7170 N. San Pablo Street, Pinedale.
- Fresno County Public Library, Sunnyside Branch, 5566 E. Kings Canyon Road, Fresno.
- Fresno County Public Library, West Fresno Branch, 188 E. California Avenue, Fresno.
- Fresno County Public Library, Woodward Park Branch, 944 E. Perrin Avenue, Fresno.
- Fresno County Public Library, Laton Branch, 6313 DeWoody Street, Laton.
- City of Fresno Planning Department, 2600 Fresno Street, Fresno.
- Fresno County Clerk of the Board, 2281 Tulare Street, Room 301, Fresno.
- Laton Community Services District, 6501 E Latonia Avenue, Laton.
- Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (F.I.R.M.), 1940 Fresno Street, Fresno.
- Ted C. Wills Community Center, 770 N.San Pablo, Fresno.
- Einstein Neighborhood Center, 3566 E. Dakota, Fresno.
- Mary Ella Brown Community Center, 1350 E. Annadale, Fresno.
- Lafayette Neighborhood Center, 1516 E. Princeton, Fresno.
- Dickey Development Center, 1515 E. Divisadero, Fresno.
- Frank H. Ball Community Center, 760 Mayor Avenue, Fresno.
- Senior Resource Center Library, 2025 E. Dakota Avenue, Fresno.
- Kings Community Action Organization, 1130 N. 11th Avenue, Hanford.
- Kings County Library, Corcoran Branch, 1001 Chittenden Avenue, Corcoran.
- Kings County Main Library, Hanford, 401 N. Douty Street, Hanford.
- Kings County Library, Lemoore Branch, 457 C Street, Lemoore.
- Kings County Library, Armona Branch, 11115 C Street, Armona.
- City of Hanford - Planning Department, 315-321 North Douty Street, Hanford.
- City of Corcoran Planning Department, 832 Whitley Avenue, Corcoran.
- Hanford Adult School, 905 Campus Drive, Hanford.
- High-Speed Rail Hanford Project Office, 101 N. Irwin Street, Suite 109, Hanford.
- Housing Authority of Kings County, 670 S. Irwin Street, Hanford.
- City of Tulare Planning Department, 411 East Kern Avenue.
- City of Visalia Planning Department, 707 W. Acequia Avenue, Visalia.
- Tulare County Library, Visalia Branch, 200 W. Oak Avenue, Visalia.
- Tulare County Library, Main Branch, 475 N. M Street, Tulare.
- Allensworth Community Services District, 3336 Road 84, Allensworth.
- Allensworth Community Center, 8123 Avenue 36, Allensworth.
- Kern County Library, Baker Branch, 1400 Baker Street, Bakersfield.
- Kern County Library, Beale Memorial Branch, 701 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield.
- Kern County Library, Delano Branch, 925 10th Avenue, Delano.
- Kern County Library, Northeast Branch, 3725 Columbus Street, Bakersfield.
- Kern County Library, Shafter Branch, 236 James Street, Shafter.
- Kern County Library, Wasco Branch, 1102 7th Street, Wasco.
- City of Wasco Planning Department, 746 8th Street, Wasco.
- City of Shafter Planning Department, 336 Pacific Avenue, Shafter.
- City of Bakersfield Planning Department, 1715 Chester Avenue, Bakersfield.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, 1000 S. Owens Street, Bakersfield.
- Greenacres Community Center, 2014 Calloway Drive, Bakersfield.
- Shafter Youth Center, 455 E. Euclid Avenue, Shafter.
- Shafter Housing Authority, 300 Terra Vista Lane, Shafter.
- Wasco Housing Authority, 750 H Street, Wasco.
- Community Action Partnership of Kern, 300 19th Street, Bakersfield.
- Richard Prado East Bakersfield Senior Center, 2101 Ridge Road, Bakersfield.
- Sacramento Public Library, 828 I Street, Sacramento.
- California High-Speed Rail Authority, 770 L Street, Suite 800.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6319, firstname.lastname@example.org or @tsheehan on Twitter.